Better Streets » Best Practices

Best Practices

Here BEST is collecting design guides, considerations and elements, and further reading for creating better streets.

Design guides

Authoritative guidance for creating better streets:

  • A People’s History of Recent Urban Transportation Innovation (TransitCenter, 2015)
    Recent innovations in urban transportation in the United States have consisted of resident-led efforts to create more ways of moving around the city. Rather than the adoption of new technology, these advances have centered on reintroducing human vitality into streets that have been lost to cars for decades. Our analysis of the human factors behind implementing small-scale change in a wholesale way shows that engagement from three areas of society is required for a city to innovate.
  • Urban Street Design Guide (National Association of City Transportation Officials, 2013)
    This Guide charts the principles and practices of the nation’s foremost engineers, planners, and designers working in cities today. A blueprint for designing 21st century streets, the Guide unveils the toolbox and the tactics cities use to make streets safer, more livable, and more economically vibrant. The Guide outlines both a clear vision for complete streets and a basic road map for how to bring them to fruition.
    • Streets
      Streets are the lifeblood of our communities and the foundation of our urban economies. They make up more than 80 percent of all public space in cities and have the potential to foster business activity, serve as a front yard for residents, and provide a safe place for people to get around, whether on foot, bicycle, car, or transit. The vitality of urban life demands a design approach sensitive to the multi-faceted role streets play in our cities.
  • The BRT Standard (Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, 2024)
    The BRT Standard is both a framework for understanding BRT and an evaluation tool for BRT corridors based on international best practices.
  • Transit Street Design Guide (National Association of City Transportation Officials, 2016)
    This Guide provides design guidance for the development of transit facilities on city streets, and for the design and engineering of city streets to prioritize transit, improve transit service quality, and support other goals related to transit. The Guide has been developed on the basis of other design guidance, as well as city case studies, best practices in urban environments, research and evaluation of existing designs, and professional consensus. These sources, as well as the specific designs and elements included in the guide, are based on North American street design practice.
  • The BRT Planning Guide (Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, 4th Edition, 2017)
    The Bus Rapid Transit Planning Guide is the most comprehensive resource for planning a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, beginning with project preparation all the way through to implementation.
  • Urban Bikeway Design Guide (National Association of City Transportation Officials, 2014)
    The purpose of the Guide (part of the Cities for Cycling initiative) is to provide cities with state-of-the-practice solutions that can help create complete streets that are safe and enjoyable for bicyclists. The Guide is based on the experience of the best cycling cities in the world. The designs in this document were developed by cities for cities, since unique urban streets require innovative solutions.
  • Global Street Design Guide (Global Designing Streets Initiative, 2016)
    This Guide is supporting practitioners to redefine the role of streets in cities around the world. Created with the input of experts from 72 cities in 42 countries, the Guide offers technical details to inform street design that prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders.
    • Designing Streets for People
      Design streets to balance the needs of diverse users in order to shape an enticing environment that ensures access, safety, comfort, and enjoyment for everyone.
      • A Variety of Street Users
        In most cities, streets constitute the largest percentage of public property, and this space must be equitably distributed between the needs of the many different users of urban streets. Designs must accommodate people walking, cycling, taking transit, enjoying public spaces, providing city services, doing business, or driving.
  • Complete Street Design Standards (City of Eugene)
    Streets are vital to the health, mobility, and accessibility of Eugene’s residents, workers, and visitors. Eugene aspires to have a complete, comprehensive, and integrated transportation network, designed to allow safe and convenient travel for people of all ages and abilities, and to incorporate green infrastructure to enhance the City’s environmental quality. In addition to fulfilling a street’s basic transportation functions and providing access to properties, streets and sidewalks should be designed to be attractive, safe, accessible, sustainable, and healthy components of the City’s environment.
  • Rethinking Streets (University of Oregon, 2013)
    For too long we’ve been building streets as though they have one function–to move cars quickly. The reality is that streets can to do more than just move cars. They can move people on foot, on bikes, on transit, without hurting vehicular throughput and safety. They can be more than a way to get somewhere else. Good streets are good places, too—public places where people meet, sit and socialize, conduct business, wander about, play, and more. This new book uses evidence from completed street projects from around the United States in order to help communities imagine alternative futures for their streets. The book does not show hypothetical street re-designs, but actual examples from typical communities to show how they did what they did and see what resulted from the change.

Considerations and elements

Additional authoritative resources for creating better streets:

  • Core Values, Ethics, Spectrum: The 3 Pillars of Public Participation (International Association for Public Participation)
    As an international leader in public participation (P2), IAP2 developed three pillars for effective P2 processes. Developed with broad international input, these pillars cross national, cultural and religious boundaries, and they form the foundation of P2 processes that reflect the interests and concerns of all stakeholders.
  • Safety (Federal Highway Administration)
    Zero is our goal. A safe system is how we get there.
    • Zero Deaths and Safe System
      The zero deaths vision acknowledges that even one death on our transportation system is unacceptable and focuses on safe mobility for all road users. Reaching zero deaths requires the implementation of a Safe System approach, which was founded on the principles that humans make mistakes and that human bodies have limited ability to tolerate crash impacts.
    • Complete Streets
      A complete street is safe, and feels safe, for all users. FHWA is focused on supporting transportation agencies to plan, develop and operate equitable streets and networks that prioritize safety, comfort, and connectivity to destinations for all people who use the street network.
    • Proven Safety Countermeasures
      FHWA’s Proven Safety Countermeasures initiative (PSCi) is a collection of 28 countermeasures and strategies effective in reducing roadway fatalities and serious injuries on our Nation’s highways.
    • Intersection Safety
      Strategies to address intersection safety are diverse, and quite often a combination of strategies is needed to truly solve a problem.
      • Roundabouts
        Roundabouts are a Proven Safety Countermeasure because they can substantially reduce crashes that result in serious injury or death.
  • Complete Streets (Washington State Department of Transportation)
    Learn how we are creating a system that enables safe, convenient access for all types of transportation options—walking, biking, driving and riding transit.
  • Complete Streets (Smart Growth America)
    Complete streets are streets for everyone. Complete streets is an approach to planning, designing, building, operating, and maintaining streets that enables safe access for all people who need to use them, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.
  • Dangerous by Design (Smart Growth America, 2024)
    Our nation’s streets are dangerous by design, designed primarily to move cars quickly at the expense of keeping everyone safe. Unfortunately, this crisis will continue to get worse until those in power finally make safety for everyone who uses our roads a top priority.
  • Safe and Productive Streets (Strong Towns)
    A good street is more than just a fantastic place to be. It’s a vital building block for a strong community. There’s a grassroots movement of people who are changing everything about how our streets are built—and they could use your help.
  • Managing Traffic Flow with Roundabouts (ODOT)
    ODOT, local jurisdictions and consultants continue to look for traffic control methods that provide ways to safely manage the flow of traffic, bicycles and pedestrians through intersections large and small. Roundabouts are one such method.
  • Roundabouts (Safe Routes to School)
    The modern roundabout is one of Federal Highway Administration’s nine proven safety countermeasures.
  • Traffic Safety Devices (City of Eugene)
    A list of design tools available to transportation planners and engineers to increase safety for people walking, biking, driving, or using any other method of transportation.
    • Roundabouts
      A modern roundabout is an unsignalized circular intersection.

Further reading

News and views about creating better streets:

  • Here Is what Vision Zero should really look like (Strong Towns, 5/13/24)
    If we want to actualize Vision Zero, we have to build environments where one of two things is true. Either (1) vehicles can travel at high speeds in a simplified environment free from randomness, or (2) we build complex human environments where kinetic energy is reduced by dramatically lowering automobile speeds.
  • Safer speeds are the secret sauce to the safe system approach (Smart Growth America, 5/1/24)
    After a decade of increased pedestrian and bicyclist deaths and a historic spike during the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) published its first-ever National Roadway Safety Strategy in 2022—setting a goal of zero traffic deaths and adopting a Safe System Approach to achieve it. In explaining the Safe System Approach the USDOT identified five objectives: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and post-crash care.
  • Pedestrian fatalities at historic high (Smart Growth America, 4/3/24)
    Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) released final data for 2022 traffic crashes revealing 7,522 people were struck and killed while walking that year. This crisis isn’t new—pedestrian fatalities are on a consistent upward trajectory and have increased by 68 percent since 2011. We need strong leadership and swift, wholesale action to make our streets safer for everyone who uses them.
  • Focusing on safer roads and safer speeds (Eno Center for Transportation, 3/28/24)
    The number of people killed in traffic fatalities in the United States fell to its lowest level (32,479) in modern history in 2011 but progress stalled for a decade. Deadly crashes accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. By 2022, 42,795 people lost their lives on U.S. roads. A look into the causes for 2021 (the most recent year for which data is available) show the problem to be broad and deep. Deadly crashes went up that involved speeding, impaired driving, large trucks, in urban areas, at night and on weekends. And pedestrians fatalities grew by 12.5 percent in one year.
  • Rethinking the intersection to prioritize safety over speed (Transportation for America, 3/26/24)
    The rising rate of pedestrian fatalities is a consequence of deadly design decisions that prioritize driver speed and convenience over the safety of all other road users. Today, we dig into one example: crosswalk signals.
  • Complete Streets Leadership Academies Report (Smart Growth America, 3/20/24)
    Traffic fatalities continue to plague communities across the U.S. with an estimated 42,795 people killed in 2022. This trauma is not experienced equally—people walking, people of color, and people in low-income communities are far more likely to be killed. But the most significant danger—especially for people walking, biking, rolling, or otherwise not in a vehicle—is located on a disproportionately smaller percentage of all roads: two-thirds of all deaths in urbanized areas occur on state-owned arterial roads. Improving the safety of communities, increasing physical activity, and eliminating preventable deaths can be achieved by better collaboration between local communities and state agencies.
  • Celebrating 20 years of complete streets (Transportation for America, 3/13/24)
    The term “complete streets” was coined two decades ago, and while a lot of progress has been made, the fight for safe streets is far from over. To commemorate 20 years of the complete streets movement, we’ve rounded up some resources that can help you keep up the fight.
  • Eliminate the guesswork in safe street design (Strong Towns, 3/12/24)
    Traffic calming is like language: it’s best when it is extremely clear and concise, eliminating the need for extra thinking on the receiving end. Similarly, traffic calming interventions are best when they not only make the environment safer for everyone outside of a car, but when they do so in a way that reduces the mental load for drivers.
  • Introducing the Complete Streets Policy Action Guide (Smart Growth America, 3/4/24)
    The way we design and manage our streets holds immense power in shaping our communities. Yet, all too often, we prioritize the movement of cars over the safety and well-being of people. It’s time to challenge this status quo and implement a transformative approach to transportation planning—one that centers around the principles of complete streets.
  • New tool: Complete streets story map (Smart Growth America, 2/8/24)
    Smart Growth America, in partnership with CityHealth, created a resource that takes a deep dive into all things complete streets. Whether you’re a planner, engineer, advocate, or new to the smart growth space, the complete streets story map can serve as an interactive tool that breaks down what makes a complete street and why they’re important.
  • Why cities should consider roundabouts (Route Fifty, 10/25/23)
    Roundabouts can protect pedestrians from large vehicles by moderating their speeds and changing the angle of collisions—with the important caveat that they are not recommended in areas with high foot traffic.
  • Building a bike-friendly city (Smart Cities Dive, 10/2/23)
    Bike infrastructure experts talk about the Five E’s, SPRINT principles, low-stress bike connections, complete streets and other strategies to make cities better for bicyclists.
  • What’s incomplete about complete streets? (Michael Lewyn, Planetizen, 7/10/23)
    Although hundreds of states and local governments have adopted complete streets policies, American streets keep getting more dangerous for walkers and cyclists. What’s missing from complete streets policies?
  • The state of complete streets policies, and the need for more progress (Smart Growth America, 5/17/23)
    Adopting a complete streets policy is a crucial first step to reducing traffic violence, improving health equity, responding to the climate crisis, and rectifying a long history of inequitable transportation practices. The new Best Complete Streets Policies report spotlights the communities that have taken that first step and outlines how they made it happen.
  • Hoboken leader shares secret sauce for Vision Zero success (BikePortland, 4/26/23)
    “Not every community has to be the Michael Jordan of complete streets,” Hoboken’s director of transportation Ryan Sharp said, making a basketball reference centered around Tim Duncan, a player known for his humble, basic approach to the game who nonetheless won five championships, “We don’t have to constantly reinvent everything. We just have to keep doing the things that work, well.”
  • Award-winning complete street just another deadly stroad (Strong Towns, 4/10/23)
    The intentions behind the concept of complete streets are clear and straightforward. A street should be a safe place for everyone who uses it. It’s not enough to design a street for automobiles and make everything else an afterthought; we have to accommodate the mobility of everyone in a way that respects their humanity. An urban street shouldn’t be deemed “complete” until it does.
    I absolutely support these concepts, but I don’t support Complete Streets.
  • Complete streets: Prioritizing safety for all road users (Federal Highway Administration, Winter 2023)
    A complete street is safe—and feels safe—for everyone using the street. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, 1,533 jurisdictions across the United States—including two-thirds of the States—have adopted complete streets policies directing their transportation agencies to routinely plan, design, build, operate, and maintain safe street networks for everyone. Often, the real challenge of implementing complete streets policies is in changing project-development processes to consistently prioritize safety outcomes. To address this challenge, many jurisdictions have gone on to create new plans and complete streets design models that transform their project-development processes to prioritize safety for all users.
  • Traffic engineers blame YOU for THEIR mistakes (Strong Towns, 12/9/22)
    The responsibility to create safe streets and lower traffic fatalities should be in the hands of DOTs and their ability to redesign the streets, not just the people using the streets. It’s important for traffic engineers to have more empathy for all people who are using streets, including drivers, walkers, and bikers.
  • How to fix the most dangerous streets in America (Bloomberg CityLab, 12/6/22)
    The multilane arterials known as “stroads” remain dangerous fixtures of US cities. In an excerpt from his book ‘Walkable City,’ planner Jeff Speck outlines how to tame them.
  • Welcome to Safetyville: Hoboken shows the world how to do Vision Zero (Streetsblog USA, 7/14/22)
    Perhaps the only city in America to have completely ended traffic deaths on its streets is undertaking an aggressive effort to end traffic injuries, too—and its success may serve as a better model for small communities across America than the sprawling metropolises more commonly associated with Vision Zero.
  • Seven stroads that have been converted to streets (Congress for the New Urbanism, 6/21/22)
    There are thousands of stroad sections in the US. Transforming a good number of them is important to to the goal of improving quality of life and mobility in cities and towns.
  • Streets are for building community wealth: Here’s why that’s so important (Strong Towns, 6/20/22)
    A street is a platform for building community wealth. This has been one of the core insights of Strong Towns since the earliest days of my writing. A road is a high-speed connection between two places, but a street is about building wealth within a place. Real, measurable, financial wealth.
  • We’re advocating for safe and productive streets (Strong Towns, 6/6/22)
    A street is not merely a place for cars. In fact, the primary purpose of a street has nothing to do with motor vehicles at all. A street is, and always has been, a platform for growing community wealth and capacity, the framework for building prosperous human habitats.
  • Engineers should not design streets (Strong Towns, 5/6/21)
    Roads and streets are two separate things. The function of a road is to connect productive places. You can think of a road as a refinement of the railroad—a road on rails—where people board in one place, depart in another, and there is a high-speed connection between the two. In contrast, the function of a street is to serve as a platform for building wealth. On a street, we’re attempting to grow the complex ecosystem that produces community wealth. In these environments, people (outside of their automobile) are the indicator species of success. So, in short, with a street we’re trying to create environments where humans, and human interaction, flourish.
  • The 3 key functions of streets (Matt Pinder, Beyond the Automobile, 8/27/20)
    Streets are not just infrastructure for moving people; they are places in and of themselves.
  • When inclusive … isn’t (Strong Towns, 6/4/20)
    Could the vast majority of town planners could invest all of five minutes to drag and drop a few people with disabilities into documents marketing allegedly inclusive design?
  • What’s a stroad and why does it matter? (Strong Towns, 3/2/18)
    “Stroad” is a word we coined in 2013 to explain those dangerous, multi-laned thoroughfares you encounter in nearly every city, town, and suburb in America. They’re what happens when a street (a place where people interact with businesses and residences, and where wealth is produced) gets combined with a road (a high-speed route between productive places). They are enormously expensive to build and, ultimately, financially unproductive. They’re also very dangerous. This video (revamped from an older version) explains the problem with stroads and how to solve it.
  • The stroad (Strong Towns, 10/30/17)
    If we want to build towns that are financially productive, we need to identify and eliminate stroads. A stroad is a street/road hybrid.
  • Narrow streets do more with less (Strong Towns, 6/6/16)
    In creating a great place, less is often more. The “recipe” for a good urban street is in fact remarkably simple, which is why societies all over the world have been able to replicate it, with some variations, for thousands of years.
  • Narrow roads are better than crosswalks (Strong Towns, 8/20/15)
    What should happen, and what would essentially eliminate the need for crosswalks, is to narrow our streets with road diets (or more permanent methods), and in doing so, naturally slow the speed of cars.

See also

Related information from BEST: